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Europa draw against Legia Warsaw, while Saints eventually fall to Rangers

Europa earned a very credible 0-0 draw against Legia Warsaw tonight, while earlier in the week, St Joseph’s fought valiantly but eventually fell to defeat against Rangers.

Photo © Europa FC/C Correa Photography

Both teams went into the week with home games against the bigger European sides, with Saints first up on Tuesday against the Scottish giants. A decent crowd, aided by 900+ Rangers fans, saw the Gers run out comfortable 4-0 winners, although it took until the second half for Saints resistance to be broken down.

Two quickfire second half goals from Ryan Jack, and Liverpool loanee Sheyi Ojo put the game to bed essentially, and Steven Gerrard’s side added gloss to their victory with efforts just going over the line from Borna Barisic, and Alfredo Morelos. Saints now know that realistically their European journey will be over next week, after a visit to Ibrox.

Meanwhile, tonight saw Europa go toe-to-toe with an established European side in Legia Warsaw, 13-time champions of Poland and a familiar name to those who watch European football. In an impressive performance, which saw Europa have an almost level share of possession, and more efforts, the two sides ultimately could not be separated, and Europa go to Warsaw knowing they haven’t conceded an away goal, and have every chance of an historic progression to the next round.

Rafael Escobar started with a couple of changes from the team who beat Sant Julia 4-0 last week, including the return of Alex Quillo from suspension, while Ethan Jolley came in as one of four Gibraltarian’s starting the game. And it was Jolley who was arguably man of the match, as he put in a full-blooded performance for 90 minutes, getting stuck in with the more physically imposing Polish side. Now Jayce Olivero has joined, competition at left-back is fierce at Europa, but Jolley put in a performance that deserves him keeping that spot next week.

Both teams had the ball in the net, but the offside flag denied both teams – however both teams also had a big chance go wide in a second half which saw both teams throw caution to the wind at the end. With a good crowd in attendance, and an estimated 40,000 people watching the official stream of the game, many eyes were on Europa, and they impressed with their play, especially in midfield.

The result additionally gives Gibraltar a further coefficient boost, helping to further solidify their position of holding four European spots in future seasons – should Europa qualify next week, they face either KuPS of Finland, or Belarussian side Vitebsk – the Finns coming out 2-0 victors today.

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Liam Walker interview post-Sant Julia

After the 4-0 win vs Sant Julia last week, we caught up with Europa midfielder Liam Walker, who put in a man of the match performance against the Andorrans, scoring one and assisting two other goals in the comfortable victory.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

What are your thoughts after your man of the match performance for Europa in the 4-0 win against Sant Julia?

Walker – Obviously on a personal note happy to get 2 assist and a goal to help the team but the most importantly very happy with the result and going through to the next round, but most of all with the team’s performance, I think it was a complete performance from the whole team. We kept a clean sheet which shows we were defensively very solid and we scored 4 goals which shows we did the right things going forward and i think the best team on the day won.

It took a bit of time for the first goal to come, and you played a big part in Adrian Gallardo’s opener with a great bit of skill before playing a perfect through ball – was it a case of patience from the team until the goal came which gave Europa the away goal lead?

Walker – “I think until that first goal come, Sant Julia were sitting quite deep and just trying to play on the counter attack so it wasn’t easy to open the scoring, i feel we had a couple of good chances before the goal come but they managed to keep them out and then yeh the goal finally come, i remember it being a long ball in to me from Dayle and i was aware of having a slight bit of time to take the touch and then from there it all just come naturally,the flick over the player and then i took one more touch to get it out of my feet to then put the ball through to Adrian Gallardo who had made a great run and then finished it off even better with a cool finish. I think we knew at some point we would score so it was a case of waiting for that chance and then putting it away as Adri did and then that put us in the driving seat with the 2 away goals.”

We’d seen earlier in the week with Prishtina, and then near the end yesterday with Sant Julia and the late red card, about how a lack of discipline can see teams fall apart and cost them dearly. How important was it that even with some of the fouls coming in from the Andorran side, that Europa kept their calm and discipline throughout?

Walker – “Sending offs and being with a man or 2 down is massive in these games, it is something we keep going on about in the dressing room about being professional and keeping our discipline and having respect out on the pitch. As it showed in both games it was crucial the sending offs especially for Prishtina as at the time it was still 0-0, but St Josephs kept to their game plan and deserved to go through and for Sant Julia I think after their sending off they just gave up and I feel we ended the game a lot fitter than them.”

Next up is Legia Warsaw – what are your thoughts on playing the Polish side?

Walker – “As we know its going to be a tough game, they are a strong team with massive support. We know they are at the end of their pre season so they will be in good shape and i can imagine them being quite a physical side. We play the first leg at home were hopefully we fill the stadium with our fans who have been amazing support. We’ll be looking to take a positive result to the 2nd leg away, we will show them the respect we show to every other team but we will be going out on the pitch to win and to fight for the next round.”

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Europa ease past Sant Julia

Liam Walker scored one and assisted two as Europa comfortably beat UE Sant Julia 4-0 this evening, 6-3 on aggregate, to progress into the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.

The Greens made two changes to the side which lost the first leg 3-2 with Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr replacing Javi Munoz & Fernando Velasco – the hosts were also still without the suspended Alex Quillo.

Time-wasting from the Sant Julia goalkeeper in the opening five minutes set off a tone for the first half and after Europa’s wingers Juampe & De Barr were causing trouble, the visitors shifted to a five at the back formation.

Five minutes before half-time and Europa got their breakthrough as Liam Walker played in Adrian Gallardo who slotted the ball past the Sant Julia goalkeeper – two goals in two games for the Spanish striker.

Two minutes into the second half and Europa doubled their lead, Liam Walker once again the provider as his through ball found Tjay De Barr and he fired a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tjay should have got his brace shortly after but his close range shot went past the post after being set-up nicely by Juampe. Walker put the game to bed in the 78th minute after controlling the ball excellently in the box and smashed a shot past Kasparian.

Five minutes later and Sant Julia went down to 10 men as Jonny was sent off for a second bookable offence. Making his Europa League debut, Dayle Coleing made his first save in the 88th minute from a Sant Julia free-kick.

Europa made it 4-0 in added time as Juampe rounded the goalkeeper, dribbled past a defender and scored from close. An easy win in the end for the hosts, which proved to have broken a record in Gibraltar for the most combined goals scored by local clubs in one season in UEFA club competitions – combing Saints’ three goals with Europa’s six.

Next up for Europa is a first qualifying round tie against Legia Warsaw.

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Pecci: “Next time they will think twice about talking negatively”

We caught up with St Joseph’s midfielder Cristian Pecci as he reflects on his side’s historic win over Prishtina, the dream tie against Rangers and much more.

Second half goals from Federico Villar & Juanfri secured St Joseph’s a historic 2-0 win over Prishtina to qualify for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, Pecci reflected on the result – “It has been a historic victory for the club and the truthfully as a player I am proud of the team. We have, alongside the coaching staff, worked hard enough all year to have this reward.”

Prishtina went down to 9 men in 48 minutes after two red cards in a matter of seconds were given to Leotrim Bekteshi & Armend Dallku. We asked the Spanish midfielder how much of an impact the sanctions took on the game, “The red cards were important for us but I think that the opposing players lost their heads because they saw that they could not compete with us.”

After the game, quotes made from the Prishtina president surfaced on Twitter which stated that his side will easily beat St Joseph’s and were already preparing for Rangers in the next round – we asked how Pecci reacted to the news, “The truth is that they lacked the respect to speak negatively about us without knowing who we are and nowadays in football the first thing is to respect the whole world. I’m glad that their words are eaten and next time they will think twice about talking negatively about an opponent.”

Next up for St Joseph’s in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round is Scottish side Rangers next week – Pecci gave his view on the upcoming tie, “We have a very important match against a big club but we are going to go our all like the previous two matches and with the hard-work we are doing, we will surely make it difficult for them.”

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Saints beat bad-tempered Prishtina to set up dream Rangers match

Goals from Fede Villar and Juanfri saw St Joseph’s beat a remarkably bad-tempered Prishtina 2-0 and set up a dream tie against Scottish side Rangers.

Photo © Rough and Ready

A mad minute just after half time from Prishtina saw both Leotrim Bekteshi and captain Armend Dallku sent off, and St Joseph’s, who had soaked up the pressure in the first half, took full advantage by scoring twice in the second half – although they had Ezequiel Rojas sent off late on for a foul.

From the off, Prishtina looked like a team more interested in harassing the officials than playing football and trying to get a goal – as early as the fourth minute Dallku, who as captain set the negative tone for his teammates, went off in a tirade of abuse at the Sammarinese linesman after he hadn’t given the Albanian a foul. The first half in truth saw little in the way of major chances – Francisco Mateo made a couple of good saves but wasn’t overly troubled.

Early in the second half was the turning point though. Leotrim Bekteshi, earlier booked, hauled down Boro as he was advancing up the pitch, and was shown a second yellow card. This clearly infuriated Prishtina, as their players surrounded the ref, led by their captain Dallku, who, although he had also been booked, was shown a straight red presumably for foul and abusive language. Suddenly, Saints had a two-man advantage and knew that Rangers were in sight.

It took until the 75th minute for Saints to make the advantage count, as a free kick whipped into the box found the head of Fede Villar – the former Mons man making no mistake to give Saints the lead. In the build up to that, Prishtina had picked up two additional bookings for dissent, and then managed a third booking for the same offence – they were lucky to end with nine men on the field.

The gaps on the pitch for Saints to expose became clear for all to see, and five minutes later, Pedrito’s cross was turned in by Juanfri to secure the win and the tie in Glasow. Raul Procopio, who will have angered local fans again by starting zero Gibraltarians, will understandably point to the result as vindication for his team choices – although Ryan Casciaro may have to come into defence after Rojas late red.

The final whistle sounded, and despite the best efforts of the Prishtina players and match officials to argue some of the decisions they felt went against them, St Joseph’s could celebrate a first ever European victory, and now have to prepare for Steven Gerrard’s side next week.

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Saints draw in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa lose

A goal from Juanfri secured a 1-1 draw for St Joseph’s away in Kosovo while Lincoln & Europa suffered defeats but the use of 3 Gibraltarians across 33 players left a sour taste in Gibraltar.

Two minutes into their opening UEFA Champions League preliminary and the hosts Feronikeli made it 1-0 through Mendurim Hoti. The rest of the game was quite even, very few chances were created and the Kosovan Champions held on to progress – they will play TNS in 1QR after beating Santa Coloma on Friday.

The Imps started with Roy Chipolina & Joseph Chipolina with Anthony Hernandez coming on in the 74th minute. Lee Casciaro missed out after recovering from injury while new signing Ethan Britto didn’t make the squad.

Talk before the game had this game as a Europa win all over it and it should have been but a poor defensively display could cost them dearly. Adrian Gallardo fired Europa into a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute but the hosts would equalise on the stroke of half-time.

One minute into the second half and Europa made it 2-1, Juampe’s cross found Fernando Velasco and his effort was turned into his own net by Senah Mango.

On the 64th minute, the hosts equalised against through Joel Mendez getting his second of the evening. Europa couldn’t make use of the extra-man advantage and Pedro Munoz would make it 3-2 to Sant Julia in the 93rd minute.

Liam Walker was the only Gibraltarian starting for Europa last Thursday. Dayle Coleing & Tjay De Barr picked up apparent knocks while Ethan Jolley, Mikey Yome, Jason Pusey & Jayce Olivero were all named on the bench.

After beating Europa last season, next up for Prishtina would be St Joseph’s. The hosts pretty much dominated from start to finish, having a total of 17 goal attempts with 5 on target.

Francisco Mateo Vera started in goal for Saints and pulled off an incredible piece of goalkeeping to prevent Shillova scoring a tap-in after Kreshnik Uka’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced on the line. Shortly after Prishtina made it 1-0 as captain Armend Daliku scored from the penalty spot after Shillova was brought down by Ezequiel Rojas.

Doing what Lincoln & Europa were not able to do, St Joseph’s scored in Kosovo. Just three minutes after conceding, a cross by Cristian Pecci was met by the head of Juanfri and he guided the ball into the bottom left corner.

Saints were able to hold on and take a 1-1 draw into next Tuesday’s return leg. The impressive result would not be the talking point, with many people voicing their frustrations over the use of 0 Gibraltarian’s in their starting lineup – a repeat of last season’s second leg tie against B36 Torsavn.

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Feronikeli v Lincoln: Match Preview

Lincoln take on Feronikeli tonight in Prishtina, with the winner progressing to Friday’s Champions League Preliminary Round Final against Santa Coloma.

Graphic © Johnny Napoli

Gibraltar’s league champions were drawn against the toughest of their three potential semi-final opponents, but will look to spoil the party in Kosovo and move one step closer to a 1st Qualifying Round tie against The New Saints.

Their opponents, Feronikeli, are making their maiden appearance in European competition, but will still demand the utmost respect, with Kosovar teams better than their ranking, which is still in its infancy, suggests. The Black Tigers, as they are known, won the league by five points from Prishtina, who local fans will be familiar of, and 32 points clear of Drita, who knocked Lincoln out at this round last season.

Lincoln are believed to have no injury issues ahead of the game, with Lee Casciaro believed to have recovered from the injury he sustained on national duty against Ireland. There will also be a host of potential debutants in the face of their new summer signings, including former Europa defender Jesus Toscano, while returning defender Ethan Britto could also be involved at some point.

Tonight’s hosts have only lose once in the league in 2019, and boast an impressive domestic record in the last two months – they have also bought in a number of players and appear to have a young, dynamic squad at their disposal. The winner’s of tonight’s game would be expected to be favourites vs Santa Coloma, who beat Tre Penne 1-0 earlier this afternoon courtesy of a goal from Javier Lopez Iglesias with 15 minutes to go.

Betting:

Feronikeli go into the game as 1/3 favourites, understandable given their presumed strengths and home advantage, while Lincoln are 7/1 underdogs to take the win in 90 minutes. A draw in 90 minutes, which occurred when Lincoln faced Drita last summer, is currently 15/4, while goals aren’t expected to be flowing – under 2.5 goals is currently odds on at 4/6.             

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Bardon: “We must continue to provide a platform for the youngsters to get better”

Part One of our three part series with Anthony Bardon as we talk about his time at Manchester 62, Lincoln Red Imps and much more.

  • FG – How would you look at your time at Man62?
  • Bardon – Man62 was the first club that took me in as a player in Gibraltar and I have to always thank them as they made me feel so welcome and one of their own from the very start. It was a great time in which I learned about Gibraltar football in the short 6 months we had together.
  • FG – How did it feel signing for Lincoln Red Imps?
  • Bardon – Signing for Lincoln was something I couldn’t turn down. They showed great interest in me becoming a Lincoln player so I couldn’t say no and it was the best decision I ever made playing there for the best part of 4-5 years.
  • FG – You won many trophies at Lincoln but what is your greatest achievement?
  • Bardon – My greatest achievement was when we beat Celtic. Not only that we beat them but the whole 11 months was an incredible season and that was the icing on the cake.
  • FG – How has your time at Lincoln benefitted you as a player?
  • Bardon – Lincoln benefitted me greatly because it provided me with an opportunity to train with quality players every single day, and it turned me into a much better overall player in everything.
  • FG – Since the day you arrived to when you left, what your thoughts on football in Gibraltar?
  • Bardon – From the day I came to the day I left the football in Gibraltar was so much different. The league when I left to when I started was so much different and the quality was on another level. Football in Gibraltar now is in such an important moment and we must continue to provide a platform for the youngsters to get better.
  • FG – Who is the best player you’ve played with?
  • Bardon – The best player overall would be Lee Casciaro. We fought every game and constantly got into each other but it’s because we only wanted to win. He is an incredible athlete and player.
  • FG – Who is the toughest opponent you’ve come across in the league?
  • Bardon – Mustapha Yahaya. He was the most complete and most dominant midfielder I ever faced. He is a very good player.
  • FG – Who is the best manager you’ve worked with?
  • Bardon – Julio Ribas. He has been a football father figure to me. He is an inspiration and beyond smart.
  • FG – What local player/s do you think have the most potential to succeed as a professional?
  • Bardon – I think Tjay De Barr, Jayce Olivero and Louie Annesley are the players with the age and talent to make it. Two of them now are in pro clubs and have a real chance and Jayce can do the same. Another one is Ethan Britto.
  • FG – What is your view on the new rules being implemented by the Gibraltar FA in regard of HGP & 1 league?
  • Bardon – I don’t like the 1 league because I think it kills the competition in the lower half towards the end of the season. Many problems could arise with that I feel, but we all trust the GFA to make the right decision. HGP rule is tricky because we have to get more locals playing, but not lose the quality of play because we need our best players playing at the highest level possible every week. Again, we all have to put our faith and trust in the GFA.